“Situational Analysis” is a series of articles that seeks to examine the circumstances that most often influence an NBA prospect’s success. Each player will be scored on a scale from 1-10 in four different categories: NBA-specific skill(s), fatal flaw(s), collegiate/overseas/pre-NBA environment, and ideal NBA ecosystem.
Davion Mitchell is a 22-year-old guard from Hinesville, Georgia, who averaged 14.1 points, 2.7 rebounds and 5.5 assists per game in his junior season for the national champion Baylor Bears. He is expected to be selected in the back half of the lottery and as high as No. 7 overall. NBADraft.net currently has him projected at No. 12.
Some coaches and commentators like to use some variation of the phrase “getting in his jersey” to describe a particularly suffocating on-ball defender. Davion Mitchell defends as if he intends to swipe the opponent’s jersey and swap it for a straitjacket.
There is not a better one-on-one defender in this draft. With NBA offenses tilting heavily toward ball-dominant guards with unlimited shooting range, a player with Mitchell’s defensive skills and mindset becomes much more valuable. He irritates without fouling. He steals without gambling. He takes charges without flopping. He switches without giving an inch.
On offense, Mitchell shows total command of the offense. An old-school “floor general” type of point guard in the mold of Chris Paul, Mitchell prefers to put his teammates in position to score first, while letting his shots come to him in the flow of the offense. He rarely forces bad/contested shots. He possesses excellent court vision – both in the half court and in transition – and has an uncanny knack at keeping his dribble alive in traffic.
Mitchell is a born leader – a vocal, encouraging “coach on the floor” without annoying his teammates. He plays with incredible poise and maturity. Whichever team takes Mitchell can rest easy knowing it is bringing on an adult who will take care of his business on and off the court.
On a scale from 1-10, Mitchell’s defensive intensity and maturity rate at a 9.
Of course Mitchell is mature – he’s one of the oldest projected lottery prospects. Mitchell will turn 23 before the start of next season. Many of Mitchell’s contemporaries in the lottery won’t celebrate their 23rd birthdays until the end of their rookie contracts.
He is also a little on the small side. Some sites list Mitchell generously at 6-2, but he needs the thickest Air Force 1s Nike manufactures in order to hit that measurement. He is built like a tank, but he doesn’t have one of those freaky wingspans that can help a guard his size switch across to lanky small forwards.
Perhaps the greatest concern is Mitchell’s shooting ability. Is he the 45% 3-point shooter we saw during his junior year with Baylor, or is he 30% shooter he was in the two previous seasons? The career 66% mark at the free throw line leads me to believe that the junior year shooting uptick might be the outlier.
The shooting will decide whether Mitchell is a top-tier point guard or a Patrick Beverly-style irritant who struggles to stay on the floor in certain playoff matchups.
On a scale from 1 (not a concern) to 10 (serious hindrance), Mitchell’s relative lack of upside and poor foul shooting rate at a 9.
Mitchell won the title. Why else do you play?
Prior to cutting down the nets with his fellow Baylor Bears, Mitchell took a minute to figure out his fit. He had a solid high school career, but he didn’t set the recruiting rankings on fire. He was a consensus four-star recruit who had offers from several top college programs before landing at Auburn for one season.
The less said about his freshman year, the better. He averaged 17 minutes per game and didn’t have many offensive responsibilities.
He started to find his footing after transferring to Baylor, but he really hit his stride as a junior, when Scott Drew handed him the car keys to the offense. Mitchell is one of the rare players who saw his efficiency stats improve with increased attempts.
On a scale from 1-10, Mitchell’s pre-NBA career would have rated at around a 7, but the ‘chip bumps this up to a 9.
Ideal NBA Ecosystem
Every draft pundit on earth (well, except one) seems to be begging the Golden State Warriors to take Mitchell with one of their two lottery picks – likely the No. 7 pick, as Mitchell probably won’t fall to 14.
If the Warriors don’t include their picks in some massive trade, the Mitchell addition does make some sense on paper. As one of the most NBA-ready players available, Mitchell would be the ideal high-IQ backcourt companion for the reunited Splash Brothers. Draymond Green would love his defensive intensity, as well.
If the Warriors elect to go a different direction at 7, I like Mitchell’s fit with the Charlotte Hornets. Teams need multiple creators to thrive in today’s NBA. Adding Mitchell to play with LaMelo Ball and Terry Rozier would make for a thrilling backcourt.
Orlando at No. 8 makes sense, as well, as the Magic are in desperate need of playmaking creativity.
On a scale from 1-10, Mitchell’s situational independence – 9.5 – is among the highest in this draft class. He can handle his business in any setting. He will be best served, however, by a team that is prepared to win as soon as possible.